Five-Course Meal Ideas

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A five-course meal may be time consuming and difficult to create and serve, but most dinners that don't come from the frozen food section of the local grocery store are fairly close to five courses. Simply string together an appetizer, soup, salad, entree and dessert--that's all a five-course meal takes. If you have a decent hand for cooking and a bit of free time, a five-course meal is within your grasp.

A full and elegant dinner doesn't requires hours of work and years of experience.
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A five-course Italian dinner is among the easiest and most recognized in terms of separate courses. If you're short on time, you can easily buy all of these courses from any grocery store; just make sure you serve the food in your own dishware.

Appetizer: Antipasto Drizzle cured meats, pepperoncini peppers, an assortment of cheeses, olives (Manzanilla or Kalamata), portabella mushrooms, roasted garlic, artichoke hearts and anchovies with olive oil.

Soup: Italian Wedding An ironic but delicious choice. This soup is typically made from meatballs in spiced chicken broth thickened with egg, plus vegetables. Most canned versions of the soup are tasty and convenient.

Salad: Caesar Go with a simple, classic Caesar salad of romaine lettuce, croutons, parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing (bottled or homemade).

Entree: Chicken Marsala and Roasted Potatoes Following your favorite recipe is easy enough for this savory entree comprising chicken breasts, potatoes, mushrooms and Marsala wine. Cooking time shouldn't take more than 20 minutes.

Dessert: Pistachio Ice Cream You can buy this Italian desert from the store and scoop it into fancy dishes. No one needs to know you bought it.

Italian
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Appetizer: Chicken Dumplings Dumplings are available in large packs at the supermarket, typically in the frozen foods section. They require boiling but are usually authentic tasting. Serve a few on a plate with a side of ginger and soy sauce.

Soup: Egg Drop Soup This takes 15 minutes and only requires eggs, chicken broth and seasoning. Boil the broth and crack a few eggs into the mix. Stir to form ribbons and add seasoning to taste.

Salad: Chinese Chicken Salad While not exceptionally authentic, it fits the theme and requires only a trip to the store to buy a cheap, ready-made package.

Entree: Orange Chicken on Sticky Rice Add chicken to a bed of cooked, white rice. Drizzle orange sauce over the bed and present with a garnish of sliced chives and oranges for color.

Dessert: Mango Ice Cream Mangoes grow on the continent of Asia. This dessert is simple enough--just scoop and serve.

Chinese
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Appetizer: Cheese and Crackers Any crackers and any cheese would do well here. Arrange tastefully on a plate and serve.

Soup: Tomato-Basil It's hard to go wrong with tomato-basil soup: a tasty, easy course for any meal. Add fresh basil to canned tomato soup, or buy freshly prepared tomato-basil soup in your supermarket's refrigerated section.

Salad: Wedge with Ranch Try arranging a wedge of iceberg lettuce (a fourth of a head) on a plate and adding ranch dressing. The visual simplicity adds to the experience.

Entree: Meatloaf Meatloaf may seem bland, but this American classic can be quite the tasty entree. Season it right and serve it with a chopped onion and chive garnish.

Dessert: Cookies and Coffee Serve coffee with a platter of various cookies.

American
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Appetizer: Fruit and Cheese Platter Slices of various cheeses and fruits on a platter provide a mix of sweet, tangy and creamy to invigorate the dining experience. Serve with wine.

Soup: French Onion Soup Top this tangy broth with sliced onions, a piece of baguette and cheese.

Salad: Simple Greens and Vinaigrette Toss an assortment of greens with a mixture of balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil.

Entree: Rosemary Chicken This herb-encrusted chicken provides a counterpoint to the tangy taste of the salad and soup.

Dessert: Lime or Lemon Sorbet The citrus sorbet serves as a palate cleanser and ends the meal on a sweet note.

French
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